Sunday , 14 July 2024
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The future of rural is up to us
Road. By Heidi Marttila-Losure

The future of rural is up to us

Heidi Marttila-Losure, Publisher, Dakotafire Media

Heidi Marttila-Losure, Publisher, Dakotafire Media

What’s the future of rural places?

Based on the national conversation recently, some people might be surprised at the question.

It seems some didn’t realize that rural even had a place in the present, never mind thinking about the future. All they know of rural places is the past.

Those of us who live here—especially those of us who choose to live here—know that rural has more to offer than nostalgia. I chose to move back to my family’s farm because of the sense of community—the trust that we are all looking out for one another’s children. My family’s history in this place is also part of the appeal, but not because I want time to stand still. Having deep roots can be a form of resilience when change comes. I like the idea of drawing from that strength.

We who live in rural places know its virtues will continue to have an appeal, so people will want to live here. But the future of rural places will depend on more than that.

As we end Dakotafire’s run, I think there are two ideas that people who care about rural places need to know.

The first is that the default direction of rural—that is, the future we will arrive at if things continue as they are—isn’t good. The population projections for the year 2035 show that if all trendlines remain the same, many rural communities are going to be under serious strain in coming decades. An aging population will be without enough support from a working population—and that’s a recipe for stress and people falling through the cracks. Read more about these projections here.

But the second thing to know is that rural decline isn’t inevitable. We’ve told dozens if not hundreds of stories of rural places and people going against that default direction. The statistics also show bright spots: People in their 30s and 40s are moving to rural places, though they don’t outweigh the loss of young people. (See the story here.) We can make our communities the kind of vibrant places where people of all ages want to live. We can be deliberate about inviting people to come home to raise their families.

But I want to emphasize that we are only going to avoid that future of strained communities if we take action to go in another direction. People in other places may have the luxury of just going about their daily lives and letting the wheels of the world keep their communities going. That’s not an option for those of us living rural. A positive rural future depends on us.

How will we know what to do? I’ll end with the editorial philosophy that has guided Dakotafire Media for five years: When faced with a decision, ask, How will this affect the community? The answers aren’t always obvious, but the question itself will take us in the right direction.


Editor’s note: This is the last issue of Dakotafire. We just couldn’t make it work financially after the grant funding ended. Subscribers who wish to request a pro-rated refund of the balance of their subscriptions should send that request to heidi {at} I say thanks to all who are willing to forgo this refund to help us pay bills as we go on to other endeavors. I hope you’ve found value in the stories we’ve provided over the years—it’s been our pleasure to share them. 

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